A 90-year-old menorah from a synagogue on Long Island that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy will be displayed at the White House Hanukkah party on Thursday evening as a symbol of perseverance and hope.
The brass menorah, standing 6 feet tall, survived the storm unscathed, unlike six Torah scrolls, books and other artifacts that were damaged during the torrential storm that shook the East Coast.
The congregation’s rabbi, David S. Bauman said the White House contacted him about two weeks ago seeking a menorah that survived the storm’s onslaught.
“The next thing I know I’m talking to the White House curator and the Secret Service,” he said, according to The New York Times. “It’s an incredibly humbling experience.”
The White House has a tradition of selecting menorahs with some kind of meaningful history. Last year, the menorah displayed at the Hanukkah party was one built at a displaced persons camp in Europe after World War II. In 2010, officials selected a menorah salvaged from a synagogue destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“The Hanukkah story and the story of recovery from a hurricane are not dissimilar,” said Jarrod Bernstein, the White House director for Jewish outreach. Though not entirely the same, he said, “the spirit of reconstituting and re-sanctifying is still there.”
The structure, which opened in 1923, sustained about $5 million worth of damage. It took 72 hours to pump out the seawater and another six weeks to clean up, Bernstein said, according to The Times. While there is still no power, recently installed generators enable congregants to gather on Saturday mornings for Shabbat prayers.
“The story of Hanukkah is about the underdog becoming victorious,” he said. “And that’s our goal. We will rebuild.”